Talk about site specific!
Wilbury Theatre has taken Annie Baker’s sad, sweet and simple play about three lonely people in dead end jobs at a failing movie theatre and set it at Providence’s Cable Car Cinema.
The movie business has gone digital. Rose (Annie Basile), Avery (Ronald Kevin Lewis) and Sam (David Rabinow) fear for their jobs, as their workplace is about to be sold and converted from obsolete 35 mm reels to digital.
The audience is seated with their backs to the screen looking out over the rows of seats and aisles cluttered with popcorn, as Sam and Avery slowly sweep and wash the floor. Their work and conversation proceed at a snail’s pace, which may be disconcerting to some, but stick with it and you will find a play full of humor and pathos.
Avery is new, and Sam is teaching him the ropes. They play “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon,” a movie knowledge game connecting actors in roles, and we discover that Avery is a “film snob” who lives for the movies.
Rose is the projectionist, a job that Sam has lusted for. When she teaches Avery how to run the projectionist, poor Sam is outraged. A jealousy overcomes Sam, who eventually realizes that his life is a dead end and he is in a dead end job.
After a long hour and a half first act, conflict and resolution eventually come together in an hour long second act, which opens with some laugh-out-loud humor, jealousy, attempts at sex, small talk, big talk, and self-realization. There is a great deal of psychology in the simple language and interchange among the three people as the play moves toward its conclusion.
At times, I wanted director Wendy Overly to pick up the pace, but I had to remind myself that this is the pace the author wanted to convey the frustrated, empty lives these poor souls were leading. Stick with it and you will gain insights into people who have high expectations but not a clue as to how to reach them.
The actors do a great job in fleshing out their characters. Joyce was most impressed with Anna Basile, who has a face and body language that says it all. Lewis has captured the intimate characteristics of his nerdy but needy young man who is trying desperately to find himself. Rabinow, who has shaved his beard and mustache and cut his long hair for the role, makes the perfect loser.
Bravo to artistic director Josh Short for offering this play, which has been cheered and jeered in Boston and Off-Broadway. It certainly is a unique evening at the theatre.
“The Flick” is at Cable Car Cinema in Providence through March 25. Call 400-7100 or go to thewilburygroup.com for reservations.